he Flames have qualified for the first round of the African Nations Championship (Chan) without kicking a ball following the disqualification of their first-round opponents Zimbabwe’s Warriors.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) general secretary Alfred Gunda yesterday confirmed receipt of communication from Confederation of African Football (CAF) on Zimbabwe’s disqualification.
After the draw of the tournament in May, CAF indicated that Zimbabwe would be disqualified if the Fifa ban is not lifted two weeks from the kick-off of the Chan games.
Gunda said in an interview yesterday: “They wrote member associations last night [Tuesday] informing us that the status of Zimbabwe is that they remain suspended and, as such, the matches are forfeited and given to Malawi.”
The letter from CAF to the concerned member association reads in part: “We are referring to the suspension of the Zimbabwe Football Association [Zifa] by Fifa Congress from all football activities.
“Unfortunately, the association of Zimbabwe did not fulfil the criteria set by Fifa Congress and is still under suspension.
“Therefore, we hereby confirm to you that the clause indicated in the draw procedures is applied: In case the suspension of Zimbabwe FA is not lifted two weeks before its first match, it will be considered loser and eliminated from the competition.
“Consequently, all the matches of Zimbabwe in the frame of the first round of the qualifiers of Chan 2022 are now cancelled and consequently Malawi is qualified to the second round of the qualifiers.”
This means that the Flames are in the second round where they will face winners of the encounter between Mozambique’s Mambas and Zambia’s Chipolopolo.
All qualifying ties are set to be played over two legs, with the winners on aggregate progressing. First round first leg matches will be played between July 22 and 24 with the return legs a week later.
Flames coach Mario Marinica could not be reached for comment yesterday, but in an earlier interview on whether the situation would boost Malawi’s qualification chances, he said: “Regardless of Zimbabwe’s situation, we still have to win the second round either against Zambia or Mozambique and these are very strong teams, particularly Zambia.”
Zimbabwe and Kenya faced the same fate after they were handed Fifa sanctions. But the Kenyans, who have already made their position clear about cleansing their game before returning to international football, were not included in the draw.
Only locally-based players are eligible to participate in the Chan tournament and Malawi have never qualified since its inception in 2007.
Zimbabwe finished last at the previous edition held in Cameroon after losing all group games.